Roland Emmerich is not a man best known for subtlety.
He is, to put it crudely, best known for fucking shit up. The so-called master of disaster, Emmerich's movies are so big, dumb and stupid, no one else can touch him - his name on a movie's poster still holds weight due to his stellar work on Independence Day, although his Godzilla remake and his environmental disaster The Day After Tomorrow
didn't help matters. With 10,000 B.C., Emmerich is again playing to his strengths - it's another epic adventure, with CG beasties to boot - but even he seems overwhelmed by this massive prehistoric thriller. It's an event movie with little in the way of event, and without the brawn to compensate for the lack of brain, the result is little more than Apocalypto
Our hero is caveman and hunter D'Leh (pronounced 'delay'), played by Steven Strait, who looks like a cross between Josh Hartnett and Billy Zane (contain yourself girls) and is kitted out in a loincloth and natty Jack Sparrow-esque dreadlocks. When D'Leh slays a mighty mammoth, he's fingered by the village elder as a chosen one, conveniently just before his tribe and his best girl Evolet (Belle) are dragged off to lands unknown by vaguely foreign invaders on horseback. Flanked by village elder Tic-Tic (Curtis) and a token annoying kid who's just begging to be kidnapped, D'Leh sets off on an epic journey to find his people and fulfil some prophecy or other, meeting several expensive special effects along the way.
Now, you'll understand that this is a fantasy adventure movie (you knew man and mammoth didn't co-exist, right?) and therefore some liberties are going to be taken in the name of fun. But 10,000 B.C. has so many anachronisms it'll make your head spin: it's a history lesson as scrawled in crayon by an excitable 8 year-old kid. Pyramids built by cavemen? Gah... so... much... wrong
... Emmerich's understanding of geography isn't much better: at one point, D'Leh and his team descend from a snowy mountain and walk straight into a dense tropical jungle, before exiting into a vast, arid desert. Just where the hell are they supposed to be? Narnia? Honestly, The Flintstones was more down to earth.
If realism has been thrown out the window, why not throw some trusty dinosaurs into the mix? It'd certainly make proceedings a little more interesting, as 10,000 B.C.'s creatures leave a lot to be desired. The posters and trailers boast of a badass sabretooth tiger, but in actuality, kitty only gets around sixty seconds of screen-time, disappearing just as quickly as it arrived (and it doesn't even get to eat anyone). A mammoth stampede flexes some CG muscle but is too reminiscent of the Brontosaurus chase in King Kong, while an early scene with some giant ostrich-like killer birds (don't ask) is basically the 'long grass' Raptor sequence from The Lost World, with added feathers and beaks. Uninspiring stuff indeed.
With no CG stand-outs to goggle at, you're left struggling to empathise with the human characters, none of which are worth a damn. Strait's humdrum hero is simply going through the motions, while Belle's romantic interest just looks ridiculous caked in mud and plonked in a fur shawl. At one point, she's trussed up in a low-cut dress with mascara on, and sports impeccably white teeth throughout - aren't cave-chicks supposed to have... I don't know, more knuckles on their face than this? Stripped of CG fancy and orchestrated chaos, 10,000 B.C. is a dull, predictable chore.
The movie, at least, looks impressive; Emmerich swoops over and above plenty of Middle-Earth-esque New Zealand locations, creating some lush looking shots that rival even those of Peter Jackson. One last-reel reveal, centred around the building of a pyramid, will take your breath away - the scale is simply audacious. But it's all for nought - what's the point of creating a huge universe if you've got nothing big to put in it? A lousier adventure movie you won't find this year: 10,000 B.C. belongs, if not back in the stone age, then at least back in the mid '90s, where this sort of mindless, effects-driven drivel is best left. Ali